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21 March 2007, 09:39 am
Big Boat Skippers Talking Up A Record Breaker
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Audi Sydney Southport Yacht Race 2007
Sydney, Australia

A forecast strong southerly change set to hit the Audi Sydney Southport Yacht Race fleet 6-12 hours after the start on Saturday 24 March has the big boat skippers talking up a record breaker. The current race forecast is eerily familiar to the 1999 conditions when George SNOW's (AUS) Jutson 79 Brindabella set the 384 nautical mile course record of 27 hours, 35 minutes and 3 seconds.
The fleet that year started in northerlies before being slammed by a southerly buster in the late afternoon.

The forecast for this Saturday's start is 10 knot N/NE winds freshening later in the afternoon to 15-20 knots. Then, between 6-12 hours after the 13:00 start on Sydney Harbour, the 46 boat fleet will have to change gears fast when a strong southerly hits them from behind.

'The forecast is awesome,' said Matt ALLEN (AUS), skipper of the Jones 70 Ichi Ban, today. In the right conditions, this modified Volvo 70 is capable of reaching speeds in excess of 30 knots but as ALLEN points out, the timing of the front in relation to the record is crucial.

'There is definitely a chance the course record could go if the front hits early enough but if it's delayed, the record will slip away quite easily. At this stage I wouldn't rule a record in or out.'

ALLEN points out there are, 'A number of boats that have the potential to slice and dice Brindabella's record.' Top of the list is Grant WHARINGTON's (AUS) Melbourne maxi Skandia which has been trying to add this event to its already impressive line honours scorecard for years.

WHARINGTON Confident

'This is the year the record should go,' said an excited WHARINGTON today.

'Skandia will go nicely in the forecast conditions but we can't rule out a threat from Ichi Ban either….in planing conditions she's going to be very competitive. If it's uphill for the first 12 hours we should get a break, then we just have to hang on to the lead.'

Rob WEBB, manager Weather Services at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, who will deliver the pre-race forecast to skippers at tomorrow night's 18:00 Race Briefing at the CYCA, is expecting the southerly front to bring winds of 25-33 knots to the racecourse.

'At this stage the strong winds seem likely to remain in place for Sunday but should pull a little to the S/SE. The southerly regime looks to be maintained well into next week but we'll fine tune the strengths as we get a little closer to the starter's gun,' said WEBB today.

'In general, after a fairly benign start it would seem competitors will face a wet and windy race for at least for the first day or two,' added WEBB.

Tailor Made For Big Boats

John WALKER (AUS), the skipper of Impeccable, a Peterson 33 and the smallest boat in the fleet, is well aware the forecast is tailor made for the big boats. 'To compete against the big boats on IRC handicap we need an uphill race, like the 2006 Rolex Sydney Hobart.'

The forecast strong winds do not concern the wily WALKER too much. A veteran of 20 plus Sydney Mooloolaba races and at least 12 Audi Sydney Gold Coasts, he knows his crew of seven will have to sail conservatively to avoid breakages and the trimmers and helmsmen will have their work cut out for them keeping the boat under control.

To break the race record, the line honours boat has to average just under 14 knots of boat speed.

'It will be the average speed rather than the peak speed that gets us home,' added WHARINGTON.

Lisa Ratcliff (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Matt ALLEN's Ichi Ban:© Daniel Forster/Rolex
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